If you need cash, then the local bank cashpoints are often used. One of the great advantages of cashpoints of course is that you can travel the world cashless these days and just get local currency at any cashpoint. Long gone in the distant past is the idea of traveller’s cheques, in fact when I gave a recent presentation none of the younger people in the audience had a clue what they were. I think on the most part they have been consigned to history along with the idea of having film in your camera.

As regular travellers it’s great to be able to simply arrive in a country and be able to get local cash so easily. If your PA or office change plans and you end up going to Singapore instead of Boston as planned, then it’s no problem as far as the cash goes. Cash and a couple of credit cards along with a passport mean that you are truly free to travel the globe.

Of course, everything this convenient has a negative to it. We sometimes forget how much technology like this has revolutionised the way we live. However along with every new idea someone somewhere is working out how to create a fraud or low level crime such as theft from each change. Having previously run a major fraud department it amazed me how clever some of these people were. There really is no better advert to the local low life than someone stood at a cashpoint. “Sorry I don’t have any cash” will no longer wash they just saw you draw out a wad of notes. I have simply lost count of the number of beggars I have seen across the globe sitting at the side of a cashpoint machine.

There are basically two major designs of cashpoint machines. There are those based in a room normally as part of a bank but sometimes in shopping malls where you swipe your card to gain entry. The second type is often simply referred to as hole in the wall machines. As this suggests they are just fixed to the side of a wall outside banks, garages and shops.

Neither offers you the protection of people not realising you are gathering cash. If you are simply making a deposit, then you should assume that bystanders believe you have just withdrawn cash.

There are several ways we can look at these different setups as each has advantages and disadvantages for you.
If we look at the cashpoints in the context of assault the room based systems have a slightly improved security as in theory everyone in there has swiped their card to gain entry and they are always well covered by cameras. However, it’s possible a stolen card could be used to gain entry, so you shouldn’t lower your guard. Additionally, if there is any kind of robbery or confrontation you are then trapped in this locked room with your attacker. Even a well-meaning passer-by can’t come to your aid and assistance. CCTV is great in helping the police catch who ever robbed, raped or murdered you after the event but never rely on CCTV to protect you before or during your struggles.
If you are in one of these types of areas with cashpoints and someone knocks on the door asking to be let in what would you do?

Think first act later.

If they were able to use the machines, then their card would also open the door and let them in. The fact they want you to help them enter means that they can’t use the machines anyway. If that doesn’t raise alarm bells with you then it should. One of the ways that these types of characters fool you into letting them in is by having something in their hands like shopping bags or being on the phone. These are all distractions to take your mind off the fact they can’t get entry into the area means they shouldn’t be in there. At this point even if you don’t let them in you should be really alert as they may well be waiting outside.
The hole in the wall machines offer you the chance to just leave the card and cash and run. Yes, you will be down a few notes but really it isn’t worth fighting over. Remember what we said at the beginning if I asked you what you would pay to be able to get home that night it would be far more than is hanging out the cashpoint at that time.

Think again, imagine you had fought back and been stabbed in the liver and were currently bleeding to death laying on a cold wet street thousands of miles away from home and your loved ones and I was able to ask how much you would pay for all of that to not have happened what would you offer to pay then?

The biggest danger from the hole in the wall option is that someone approaches unnoticed and blindside you. In this scenario you don’t have the option to run or just hand over the cash as you have already been hit, stabbed or shot. Awareness around you at all times is crucial. When I talk about awareness I don’t mean to start looking around constantly like a startled hare as it identifies you as a victim. Additionally, if you were watching a cashpoint and someone was really nervous then you and everyone will assume they are drawing out large sums.

If you feel someone is watching or too close, then cancel the transaction make a fuss of looking mad shake your head and stride off. People will assume you were refused the cash and simply wait for the next unsuspecting victim.

Shoulder surfing and a number of other similar scams have inevitably sprung up to take advantage of these cash machines. Your main defence is to be alert to your surroundings and other people. If someone talks to you while you are working the machine assume the worst. This is an intrusion into your personal space and if it isn’t setting off alarm bells for you then nothing will.

When giving a talk I was asked about what I would recommend in the situation where someone was forced to go to a cashpoint and withdraw money.

In this case the person was coerced by a gang with a weapon being used to threaten them. All situations are different and in most there is probably not a right or wrong that you can state as each person and each attacker will behave in different ways. Couple that with the environment around them and as events unfold circumstances, threats and levels of danger could change rapidly.

My overwhelming recommendation for the majority of people in this type of situation is to give the people the money they want. If possible, take any opportunity to make good your escape but not at risk of your own safety.

This type of theft has a natural ending to it, its time defined in that you can only withdraw so much money before your card is no longer of use. You and your attacker both know that and that is a huge problem.

As the events come to a natural conclusion the attacker is left with a problem and that problem is you. They have a choice to make now which may have already been decided weeks or months ago when this was being planned. Do they let you go or do they make sure you can’t talk about what happened to the authorities which could lead to their arrest. The likelihood of each choice is not linear and could depend on a number of variables some of which you don’t know.

Depending on where you are in the world taking someone’s life might be a lot less of a major decision than elsewhere.